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Open Square continues renovation

Pearl Bridal Boutque is the first retail establishment to go into the new retail area at Open Square. Reminder Publications photo by G. Michael Dobbs
By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

HOLYOKE Open Square is continuing its renovation of a former factory complex with the opening of it's the first tenant in its retail area and with the announcement that MassDevelopment has issued a $2 million real estate loan to Open Square Properties LLC.

John Aubin, the architect and developer of Open Square, said, "This is great news."

"Open Square has tapped into a latent but growing market for well-designed walkable urban space for living, working, and playing," Aubin said. "Our latest loan from MassDevelopment gives us the resources we need to take the next step in attracting and bringing in larger businesses like our newest tenant, Sovereign Consulting Inc., and in further developing the retail component of Open Square."

Aubin's family bought the former Lyman paper Mill in 1969 and Aubin, moved to Holyoke in 1999 to design and oversee the development of the mixed-use community and began rehabilitating the mill and attracting a variety of businesses to serve as the facility's anchor tenants.

Since 2004, Open Square has increased its commercial tenant base from nine to 50, representing only 15 percent of Open Square's available space, while employing more than 120 people. The current loan will be used to build out $35,000 square feet of office space and 6,000 square feet of retail space.

Despite the economic downturn, Aubin said that companies are still looking for office and retail space. An advantage to locating to Open Square is the huge complex has the potential to offer growing companies additional space, he added.

Aubin said the complex "has been making slow, but steady progress."

The key hasn't been rapid growth, he explained, but reaching a "critical mass."

"Each tenant adds to that," he added.

He seeks "quality tenants" and said many of them have stayed on a long-term basis. He noted that three of the tenants have expanded their space in the complex this year.

Aubin's goals have included a very mixed tenant population and he counts among the businesses at Open Square a floor of artist studios, non-profit groups, consultants, lawyers, a caf and manufacturing.

What Aubin ultimately wants is "a large mix of businesses with a strong local and regional focus." He said an immediate goal would be to attract a "high quality bakery" to the complex.

He has also looked to the future when he will be developing living space at Open Square as well. "It's definitely on the horizon," he said. He added that having the Canal Walk project in place to begin was a key factor in developing apartments and thinks an announcement on living spaces will come in the fall.

Aubin's newest tenant, Pearl Bridal Boutique, is the first to open in the new retail space. In business at Open Square since May 1, owner Ryan Mainville said her shop carries designer lines of bridal gown and attendant's dresses. The shop is open Tuesday and Wednesday from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and from 5 to 8 p.m. by appointment and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

"MassDevelopment is pleased to team up with John Aubin again to support the latest phase of the Open Square redevelopment initiative," Robert L. Culver, MassDevelopment president and CEO, said. "We look forward to watching this landmark project take shape and revitalize downtown Holyoke by bringing new businesses, jobs, housing opportunities, and other resources to the area."